Say cheese during Tet

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During New Year, people often like to feast on simple traditional dishes along with their families

When the weather turns a little cold at the end of the year, it signals the arrival of holidays like the New Year and the Lunar New Year, or Tet.

It is the time when everyone expects to feast on traditional delicacies like giò thủ (pig's head paste) at family parties.

Giò thủ, a simple and popular dish in Vietnam, is known as head cheese though it is not made from cheese but from gelatinous pork meat.

Made from various parts of the animal such as ears, snout, and even cheeks, the stunning dish is both chewy and crunchy.

It originated in the north but it was so delicious that the south soon embraced it.

Giò thủ is served both at small parties and major events like Tet and ancestors' death anniversaries, and is sometimes given as a gift to ill people.

Giò thủ goes well with pickled vegetables and some wine.

Head cheese can be preserved for a long time.

It is widely available at markets and supermarkets, and also easy to make at home.

First, one needs to thoroughly clean the pig's ears, snout, and cheeks with water, salt, and vinegar and rinse them with water. Be sure that the fur on the meat is removed.

Soak wood-ear mushroom for around 20 minutes or until soft, and drain them.

Then boil the meat in a large pot with onion, sugar, and salt for about 45 minutes or until they are done. Test by poking a chopstick into the meat.

When the meat is done, taken it out and rinse with cold water to prevent the skin from changing color. Thinly cut the ears, snout, and cheeks.

Mix them with ground pepper, whole peppercorns, sugar, salt, fish sauce, and shredded wood-ear mushroom. Heat a pan and add some oil, garlic, and shallot.

Pour the meat mixture into the pan and stir-fry over low heat, usually for about 10 minutes, until the mixture turns viscous.

Add the mixture into a cylinder mould when it is still hot. One can use empty cans for the purpose. Line the can with plastic bags and tightly pack the cans with the mixture. While adding the mixture to the mold using a spoon, keep pressing it firmly to compact it.

After finishing, close the bag and place something heavy on top to compact the contents further, and leave the mixture in the fridge overnight.

When it cools, the mixture will congeal together thanks to the natural gelatin. Remove it from the mold and wrap it up in banana leaves and tie with strings.

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